“Whether it’s riding a bike or playing the piano, we learn how to do things through experience and practice – in some cases, lots of practice.”
Experiential learning is a method of educating through the first-hand experience. Skills, knowledge, and experience are acquired outside of the traditional academic classroom setting and may include field trips, field research, and service-learning projects.
The concept of experiential learning was first explored by John Dewey and Jean Piaget, among others. It was made popular by education theorist David A. Kolb, who, along with Ron Fry, developed the experiential learning theory, which is based on the idea that learning is a process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. It is based on four main elements which operate in a continuous cycle during the learning experience:
In the workplace, experiential learning –‘learning by doing’ – can be used to teach employees specific skills and behaviors aligned with the company’s goals. It’s a hands-on approach to training that has a wealth of benefits, such as:
It Mimics Real Life
It Provides a Safe Learning Environment
It Offers a Chance to Reflect
It Boosts Morale
Why Experiential Learning is Important
There are a lot of different learning styles out there; not everyone is suited to listening to a lecture, then going off to perform a task or follow a procedure. Employee training is needed not only to establish expectations on tasks but to impart company goals and culture.
One way to get everyone up to speed is through experiential learning, a process where employees get their hands dirty while practicing a new task, then reflecting on what happened. The process has a number of advantages, including employing multiple senses and emotional connections when training, in order to create stronger memories.
1. It Moves Us beyond Theory
Experiential learning provides an opportunity for continuous learning and improvement. Learning by doing provides the learner with instant feedback and the ability to reflect on what to keep doing, what to tweak and repeat, or what to change altogether. It's a great way to test competency to know if additional support would be helpful to create success for the learner.
2. A Bond Forms When Colleagues Collaborate
Experiential learning accelerates development because people work on real-time issues and immediately assess outcomes. The hidden benefit of this type of learning is the bond formed when colleagues collaborate during the experience. Those involved all grow, engagement increases, and ownership of results deepens. The value of that hidden benefit will be felt long after training class ends.
3. A Person Can Gain Memorable Insights to Act On
Giving employees an experience — rather than just a lecture, course, or book — to help them learn and develop themselves can be very effective. Experiential learning is designed to help each person gain insight in their own way through introspection and self-directed activities. By learning in the context of their own experience and goals, a person can gain memorable insights to act on, right away.
5. Experiential Learning Is Learning Through Reflection
Experiential learning is learning through reflection and the primary reason companies should use it. The reflection allows you to understand what works, what doesn't work, and what type of learning is conducive to your cultural environment. Doing right, experiential learning can aid in organizational learning, which creates more agility and an increased competitive advantage.
6. A Shared Experience Helps Develop Awareness of Behaviours
A good experiential training session or workshop with a group creates a shared experience for everyone to play and learn in a safe space. We once built a city using Lego bricks, and we could see who played collaboratively with others and who hogged all the bricks. The game allowed people to become aware of behaviors that were happening on the team in real-life. They discussed and laughed about them, too.
7. Brains Are Wired To Remember Emotions
Our brains are wired to remember emotions. Experiential learning enables employees to feel something, improving the brain's ability to remember. Training without an "experiential" component means you risk missing out on long-term behavior change. Employees may gain short-term memory of a theory or concept, but if it's not applied, very rarely will the concept be integrated into the person's day-to-day actions
8. The Training System Has a Strong ROI
The most effective learning is through experience, and the biggest reason companies should provide hands-on training is to reap the greatest training ROI. Retention and confidence are far greater when participants have had the opportunity to practice coaching, delegating and listening. Combine that with reflection time and feedback, and you have the best training scenario and ROI!
9. Experiential Learning Shares Company Culture
When allowing your team to participate in experiential learning, they are usually paired with a co-worker or a mentor to show them the ropes. This will not only allow them to learn the job for which they've been hired, but also the culture of your company. This is why it's important for management to be aware of the type of culture they want to create and cultivate it in all their employees.
When all of these elements are combined, the result is a learning experience that participants are excited to engage their confidence to apply their new skills back on the job.
Pros and Cons of Experiential Learning
Like any type of training approach, experiential learning has both pros and cons.
Some of the pros of experiential learning include:
Fun and interesting training sessions that engage participants
Relevant to participants regardless of differences in career level or culture
Higher retention rates (up to 90 percent, compared to as low as 5 percent for
passive learning methods)Builds conviction among participants, which leads to lasting behavior change
Some of the potential cons of experiential learning are:
Potential for higher upfront costs
Logistical challenges of having all participants together in the same room
Risk of not having a competent facilitator to provide an effective debrief
Fortunately, many of these possible challenges can be easily overcome. For example, costs for experiential learning are comparable to other types of training, and a strong and measurable ROI means that, over the long term, you’re actually getting more for your money. Additionally, the risk of not having a competent
facilitator can be avoided by working with the experts at Vyapt Consulting.